Getting Sticky With It: A Parable About The WSJ

© Can Stock Photo / Subbotina

While The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is not an investment advisory firm, this venerable publication faces similar challenges to the ones found in our industry. They’ve been around quite a while, working hard at being the source for “serious” readers, Jason Zweig fans (Jonathan Clements before him), and “stipple” drawings.

Still, as is the case in the advisor community, even the grandest institution can crumble if it doesn’t keep up with the Times (figuratively and perhaps literally in journalism). The bigger you are, the harder you might fall if you assume you can completely ignore those pesky roboadvisors, for example, or if the evidence underpinning your evidence-based investment strategy incorporates nothing newer than insights applied at the turn of the millennium.

Happily, this is not a cautionary tale based on the WSJ’s demise. Instead, I’ve now been subscribed to the publication for a little over a year, and I have been pleasantly surprised at the lessons I’ve been learning from it – directly from its news and commentary, and indirectly from its strategies for ensuring “clients” like me are happy campers.

I started out as a reluctant subscriber. There’s so much free content on the Internet these days (I reasoned), I shouldn’t have to pay for my news. I was especially annoyed when the WSJ started shutting down access to their own, previously free content. I resisted paying for it, partly on principle, and also because it was pretty pricey.

The thing was, I found myself continuing to run into WSJ articles when seeking this or that statistic, fact, or a “just right” quote for my writing projects. So, reeling me in with a low-cost trial run, I signed up. Grudgingly.

Good thing. I ended up paying for real once the trial was over, and almost happily so. I had determined that the cost was going to pay for itself in the time I was saving having to hunt down the financial goods that were otherwise so elusive.

But it doesn’t end there. I don’t even receive the print version; I don’t want to. “The paper” is dead … long live the paper. What I’ve discovered is an online resource that’s (relatively speaking) well-vetted, well-written and well-designed.

Besides scanning their site for news, I can sign up for specific newsfeeds of interest to me. They don’t send me junk I don’t want. They have recently launched a nifty value-added offer that has almost nothing to do with traditional journalism: Once a month, they offer a free download of a popular online book to have as my own. My first download happened to be Madeleine Albright’s Prague Winter, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read all year. As if that weren’t enough, once a month, they hold a drawing to win some free exotic trip somewhere. This month, it’s France. I haven’t won yet, but it’s fun to think I might.

The deeper I go, the more I find. What started out as a shortcut for some specific types of research for my day job has transmuted into an essential relationship I would be loathe to live without. In other words, they’ve got me. I’m stuck.

I’m not suggesting you start holding travel contests for your clients. I doubt that’s even legal for you. But I am hoping this might start your own creative juices flowing.

How can you break the mold and improve on the meaning of “valued advisor”? What are one or two new things you can do each year to delight your clients in ways they didn’t even realize they wanted? How can you eliminate steps, processes or conversations that may be “the way it’s always been,” but that – let’s face it – they don’t really want or need?

Start brainstorming. Crack that code, and I bet you’ll soon find that your clients are stuck too.

PS: Fun trivia: Meet Noli Novak, the artist behind many of those WSJ stipple drawings.